How Watching the Presidential Debates Makes You Stupid

One should be more informed, not less after watching a presidential debate. Jamison Foser, in an otherwise excellent post about the recent Democratic debate, makes one small error when he accuses CNN’s Wolf Blitzer of being imprecise, when, in fact, Blitzer is just wrong:

Blitzer said, “I just want to be precise” — but he was the opposite of precise. Clinton and Obama had given precise answers; Blitzer then restated their positions in less precise terms.
Here, let’s look at all three statements again, in the order in which they were made:

OBAMA: “Part of it is paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent.”
CLINTON: “Well, let me say that the way I would pay for this is to take the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire on people making more than $250,000 a year.”
BLITZER: “I just want to be precise. When you let — if you become president, either one of you — let the Bush tax cuts lapse, there will be effectively tax increases on millions of Americans.”

Both Obama and Clinton had been precise about their plans: Obama spoke specifically of “rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent” and Clinton spoke specifically of allowing the “Bush tax cuts” for “people making more than $250,000 a year” to expire. Both candidates were precise in their descriptions of who would lose their tax cuts; both candidates precisely described those people.
Wolf Blitzer, claiming to want to bring precision to the discussion, then characterized the candidates’ positions in more vague language — vague language that just happens to mirror the likely conservative attacks on the candidates that McManus had previewed: “[T]here will be effectively tax increases on millions of Americans.” That is a less precise formulation than Clinton and Obama offered: Blitzer didn’t specify who the “millions of Americans” are. Many viewers watching Blitzer likely assumed they would be among the “millions of Americans” Blitzer was talking about.

Actually, Blitzer isn’t vague, he is wrong. I don’t want to get technical, but the word millions means at least two million. Foser’s correct in that it sounds like Clinton or Obama would tax tens of millions, but is Blitzer actually right? Would two million or more see a tax increase under either candidates plan?
Of course not. What were you thinking? Like all celebrity journalists, he is a rather dim bulb who has difficulty grappling with basic arithmetic. Using The Google, I found that 1.7 million households made $250,000 or more. That’s not millions. Likewise, there are 113 million income generating households, so one percent of that isn’t millions either.
So Blitzer is wrong, and viewers, who did the right thing by trying to inform themselves, are actually more ignorant than before the debates.
Heckuva job, Blitzy.
Other than that, Foser is dead on target. Go read him.

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6 Responses to How Watching the Presidential Debates Makes You Stupid

  1. Moopheus says:

    But “households” are, on average, more than one person. So it could be millions.

  2. yogi-one says:

    You are so generous by assuming Blitzer is bad at math. He isn’t.
    To be more “precise”, this was on purpose. The idea was to try to get the viewers to turn against the Democratic candidates using the old threat that Dems will raise taxes on the average American, whereas Republicans will not (itself a fallacy, because under the GOP the average American pays more and only the households making $250,000/yr or more are paying less).
    I have lost patience with the MSM and no longer give them the nicety of assuming that their wrong reporting is simply human error. It’s not. Its a malicious propaganda assault on the public designed to confuse and dumb you down. The whole point of CNNs debate coverage is to take what actually happened, and spin it the way they have been told to.
    The idea that CNN is somehow less guilty of this than FOX news is also baloney.
    Blitzer is a bought-off, willing participant in a propaganda and disinformation war aimed at the middle class.
    Call it what it is, please.

  3. natural cynic says:

    The answer that Obama and/or Clinton should have made to Blitzer is:
    “Not millions of Americans, but I want to make sure that overpaid dumbass toadies like you have a big tax increase.”

  4. Joshua says:

    I supported John Edwards because he would have corrected Blitzer.
    Of course, the media the next day would be all about how John Edwards is a RAGING VOLCANO OF RAGE WHO RAGEFULLY ATTACKED POOR INNOCENT WOLF BLITZER WITH HIS BURNING RAGE!!!
    But, you know, at least he would have corrected the idiot.

  5. khefera says:

    as a member of the so-called msm, i ask you to please go read this:
    and then kindly stfu.
    does blitzer suck? absolutely. does that mean a vile cabal of right leaning mediacrats is undermining the election? stop talking out of your ass.

  6. Colst says:

    Not a fan of Blitzer, but I’m not so sure his math is wrong. 1.7 million *households* vs. millions of *people*. That just takes 1.17 people per household, which seems like a low estimate to me.

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